Will Character Actually Matter This Time?

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 23: Aqib Talib #25 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is restrained by team mates following a decision during the NFL International Series match between Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Wembley Stadium on October 23, 2011 in London, England. This is the fifth occasion where a regular season NFL match has been played in London. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Greg Schiano always tried to do the right thing at Rutgers. His pupils consistently did well academically. There were never any rumors of NCAA violations. And when Eric Legrand of Rutgers injured his spine and was paralyzed, Greg Schiano did the right thing and handled the situation perfectly. But will this translate to the NFL, and what does this mean for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' players?

'Character' was important to the team in previous years, too. Or at least, that's what they said. But was that just lip service? Judging by the results, it sure seems like it. While they occasionally attached public consequences to players' missteps - such as cutting Jerramy Stevens after a drug arrest - the Bucs also protected the players in the building, and added players with question marks on their resume.

When Aqib Talib was arrested this offseason, the Bucs could have made a strong statement by releasing or trading him. Instead they opted to stick with Talib - protecting him as a member of the family, and sending the message that he was too good to be released.

The Bucs have added questionable characters to their team in previous years, too. Mike Williams was drafted in the fourth round after a tumultuous and problematic college career. Legarrette Blount had a much-publicized incident involving him punching someone after the game, but he was ultimately a Buccaneer too. And when Tanard Jackson returned from his second drug suspension, he was given a contract extension immediately. Character matters? That's not necessarily the message the Bucs sent.

Will this change under Schiano, though, or is this just talk? We should see this fairly quickly - when the Bucs decide what they will do with Aqib Talib. If character matters, if buying in to the system matters, Aqib Talib is most likely gone. If on-field play once again trumps character, Aqib Talib will stay - unless he's actually convicted of a felony.

Ultimately, I don't care. Character is nice, but you need good players too - and sometimes those good players don't have the greatest character. What matters is how the locker room handles that. The right team can handle a bad character in the locker room. One without leadership, without the right guys, cannot.

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